A brighter and seemingly larger than usual full moon will light up the night sky Wednesday. Not only will it be “super”, but it’s also the second full moon of the month – making it a blue moon.

The blue supermoon will rise at 7:50pm in the east-southeast in Little Rock. It will have a yellow-orange glow when it is low on the horizon at moonrise. Just like the view of the sun changes at sunrise and sunset, so does the moon at moonrise and moonset.

Full moon over the Helena Bridge. Photo: Will Newton

WHY DOES THE MOON LOOK ORANGE: When the moon is low in the sky, moonlight travels a longer distance. The shorter wavelengths of blue are scattered out, while longer wavelengths of red and orange are left behind. Around 8pm in the evening, most people will still be awake, so they’ll be able to catch this typical process.

The blue moon name is not related to color, rather the expression “once in a Blue Moon,” referencing rarity. Two full moons in one month is not all that rare, however. A blue moon occurs every 2½ years on average, according to NASA. A blue supermoon occurs less often, around every eight years.

Bonus bit: A Blue Moon also refers to an extra (or fourth) full moon in a season.

  • The first full moon of the month was 8:42pm Tuesday, August 1 in Little Rock.
  • The Blue Supermoon Moon will rise 7:50pm Wednesday, August 30 in Little Rock.
  • There will be a fourth and final supermoon this year on September 29. It will rise 7:18pm in Little Rock.

What makes the two full moons in August “super” is they are at the closest point in orbit around Earth, called perigee. This explains why supermoons are noticeably brighter and appear larger.

The moon is 226,000 miles away from Earth on average at perigee, according to NASA. It is 253,000 miles away at its farthest point in orbit, called apogee.

The forecast Wednesday evening will be ideal for catching the blue supermoon, with clear conditions and temperatures in the low 80s around 8pm cdt. While the moon is officially full Wednesday, it will appear full Tuesday night through Friday.

Full moon over the Arkansas State Capitol. Photo: Will Newton

SO WHAT ABOUT SATURN?: Look next to the moon in the night sky this week, and you’ll see an extra bright Saturn. The ringed planet was at opposition August 26 – 27, according to NASA. At opposition, Saturn is directly opposite of the Sun with Earth in the middle.

Although millions of miles away, Saturn can still be seen with the unaided eye (albeit looking more like a gleaming dot).

If gazing before 8pm cdt, Saturn will be slightly to the upper right of the blue supermoon, and will swing clockwise around it as the evening progresses, according to NASA.

The forecast fairs well for all night sky viewing through the work week. Check out the latest updates with the Arkansas Storm Team.